A celebrated government high school principal in Madhya Pradesh has been suspended for allowing a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to distribute notebooks featuring Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar on the cover among students.
School principal RN Kerawat, a winner of the president's award, said he was "stunned" by the development.
The NGO - which calls itself the Veer Savarkar Janhitartha Samiti - had distributed 500 notebooks among students of Class 9 and 10 at the Government High School in Ratlam district's Malwasa area on November 4. The books, distributed with Mr Kerawat's permission, featured VD Savarkar's photograph and life story on the cover page.
The matter came to light when the organisation uploaded photographs of the event on social media. A fan group of the Congress alerted the party's IT Cell in Bhopal, following which a complaint was lodged with the Ratlam collector.
The district education officer (DEO), who was asked to probe the allegations, recommended action against the principal because he had helped organise the event without permission from the Department of School Education.
"This amounted to violation of established norms under the MP Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1966, particularly Rule 3 of the 1966 rules. A report recommending action against school principal RN Kerawat was sent by my office to the district collector, which was forwarded for further action to the Ujjain Divisional Commissioner. The divisional commissioner, acting on the report, ordered the immediate suspension of the school principal," said DEO KC Sharma.
Mr Kerawat said he received the suspension order on January 13. "I was stunned to find out about that. I don't know what wrong I did by allowing the distribution of notebooks among students purely in their interests without the permission of higher-ups. I later came to know that the notebooks bore Savarkar's photograph and life story but I didn't think it would influence students of Class 9 and 10," he claimed, adding that the NGO had been distributing similar books in other schools too.
Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the Congress government's hatred for VD Savarkar was making it take action against personalities of note. "It is saddening to see a principal honoured by the President of India in the past being treated like this," he wrote on Twitter.
However, Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja claimed that the high school principal's suspension has nothing to do with politics. "It is just a matter of discipline and government rules," he said.
Mr Saluja said it was inappropriate of the principal to distribute notebooks bearing VD Savarkar's image without prior permission. "After all, what did he do for the country that merits the distribution of his literature in schools?" he asked, hitting back at the BJP.